By Jenny Kirchner
On Idyllwild Arts Academy’s (IAA) new podcast “One World. One Idyllwild. The Series.,” Pamela Jordan, president of Idyllwild Arts Foundation, interviews educators, artists and IAA students to get their story and perspective on the arts and how it transforms the world we all share.
In episode two, which premiered April 13, Jordan spoke with Reveta Franklin Bowers, a prominent leader in arts education, and IAA student Aminta Skye, who the Town Crier interviewed at the end of February.
“I’m the fourth-generation teacher in my family,” Bowers said. “As I was going to college and graduate school, the last thing I wanted to be was a teacher. But I remember what my mother said, ‘You can always fall back on teaching.’”
After a stint in marketing, Bowers realized that wasn’t her interest. She took a trip down to the Los Angeles County of Education superintendent’s office, who, little did she know, happened to be her former second grade teacher.
He recognized Bowers when she walked in to apply for a job and he gave her her first teaching job at her former elementary school.
After teaching for only a handful of years, Bowers found herself at The Center for Early Education where she served as the head of school for 40 years before retiring in 2016.
Despite her young age and little experience, she had many who supported her and believed she could successfully take on the job as head of school due to her professionalism and desire to learn.?
“I was given an extraordinary opportunity by a wonderful board who had faith that I could do the job, but I wasn’t sure,” Bowers explained. “But I learned so much in those early years. When you find work that fulfills you, you want to share that fulfillment and that joy in going to work with other people who are interested in the same career path.”
While experience goes a long way, it isn’t the only way. Bowers had the drive, education and motivation to do her best at a job that she didn’t have much experience in which led her through an amazing career. Currently, Bowers has temporarily stepped out of retirement and is back at The Center for Early Education as the interim head of school.
“Even if you don’t have all the experience that you think you need, I learned something new every day and every year added to my briefcase of professional skills that I could call upon to run the school,” Bowers explained.
Outside of teaching, she comes from a long line of musicians as well, so it was almost a given that she would follow down the same path.?
As a young child, Bowers played the cello and piano. While the cello was short-lived, she kept up with piano over the years, and has used it as a form of therapy for her during her most stressful times.
Born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, which is known for its rich music culture, Bowers spent some of her free time immersed in the music scene and socializing with musicians from around the globe, whether that was at home or in the vast music scene LA offers.
“I spent my summers at the Hollywood Bowl,” Bowers said. “I went to the concerts for youth that the LA Philharmonic did. Music was a part of our lives and we knew so many professional musicians. They came to our house to rehearse and do jam sessions when they were unemployed. They knew there was always a pot of something on the stove.”
While Bowers is from LA, her family has an extensive history in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her grandparents were founders of multiple businesses after moving from North Carolina to Tulsa. They heard families of color from all over the country were moving there to start a community of their own.
“In 1921, my grandparents had opened a photography studio,” Bowers said. “My grandmother opened a music school and also the first preschool in Tulsa. They had formed parts of the professional community, and my grandmother’s brother was one of the staff doctors in the Black hospital. It was the most prosperous Black community in 1921.”
During the Tulsa Race Massacre, her family and fellow community members lost nearly everything as homes and businesses in the Black community of Greenwood (Black Wall Street) were demolished. Her family chose to stay and help rebuild Tulsa, until her parents moved to LA during World War II.?
Bowers explained, “We always heard the story of the race riots, but we also heard the story about the good people who came and helped the community try to rebuild. They were people of different ethnicities from different states.”
Through all of Bowers experience as an educator and as a woman of color, one key factor has played a vital role in her success — we all make mistakes. Making mistakes is how we learn. Owning those mistakes is how we do our best not to pass them onto the future generations.?
“You’re lived experience is important — share it,” Bowers ended her interview saying. “Don’t feel that in any setting that your experience doesn’t matter and that what you have lived through in your lifetime isn’t valuable. Once you’ve achieved what you hope to achieve, then you have an obligation to turn around and mentor someone else for the next generation of kids. It’s critically important that we open doors for others.”
You can find IAA’s new podcast, “One World. One Idyllwild. The Series.” on all podcast streaming platforms.